The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Doomsday cult: Bibi and the Zionist view of Iran

Last week Jeffrey Goldberg, the most important cheerleader for Israel in American journalism, interviewed Benyamin Netanyahu and talked to him about Iran in particular, which of course Goldberg framed within the Iran-will-nuke-Israel-as-soon-as-it-gets-the-bomb meme. The article is full of this kind of stuff, like calling all Islamists (Hamas, the Iranians, Hizbullah, al-Qaeda) "jihadists" as if they were one and the same, and very short on pushing Bibi on the Palestinian question (there's no questioning of his reversal of Israeli policy since Oslo, i.e. a commitment to the two-state solution.) In fact, throughout the whole interview, Goldberg and Bibi keep coming back to the Iran issue as the most important thing, with some subtle threats from Bibi that Israel would take the Iranian matter into its own hands if Obama doesn’t (which is most likely bluster as a strategic strike on Iran's nuclear reactor(s) is not believed by military expert to be an effective deterrent.)

Bibi says:

"You don't want a messianic apocalyptic cult controlling atomic bombs. When the wide-eyed believer gets hold of the reins of power and the weapons of mass death, then the entire world should start worrying, and that is what is happening in Iran."

I have been struck over the last two years by the apocalyptic tone of Israeli politicians and their supporters around the world about Iran. It appears they view Iran and its mullahs a little bit like a fantastically weird scene in Beneath the Planet of Apes, a rare sequel that is better than its original. The scene shows the remnants of the human race, a bizarre doomsday bomb-worshiping cult that has put a big gold ultimate nuclear weapon at the center of its theology:

Click to play clip from Beneath Planet of the Apes

And while we're on that movie, one wonders if the Iranians view the Israelis - and indeed the Americans - like the warmongering gorillas in the same movie who decide to wage battle on the last remnants of humanity. Perhaps this is how the mullahs viewed George W. Bush's axil of evil moment:

Click to play Ursus' speech

Update: Joe Klein, reacting to the Bibi interview, makes some good points about inconsistencies in what Netanyahu says about the alleged irrationality of the Iranians (esp. his point that they might be responsive to economic sanctions - why, if they are irrational?) but has a very weird part about Arab fears of Iran:

Netanyahu is also completely wrong when he says that Iran, with a bomb, will be able to coerce Arab neighbors to its side. The precise opposite is true: Iran with a bomb would touch off an Arab arms race. The very prospect of Iran with a bomb is freaking out the Arabs now--in private, your average Egyptian, Jordanian or Saudi diplomat is far more passionate about the threat from Iran than the "atrocities" Israel undertook in Gaza.

Funny how I haven't noticed people, in private conversation, freaking out about Iran, or that they are more outraged by this than by Gaza. What the Arab regimes freak about is not the Iranian bomb but growing Iranian regional influence and what it might mean if they do get the bomb. Our friend Ezzedine Choukri-Fishere articulates this Arab fear of Iranian influence elegantly in a recent article:

srael is not the only party that is nervous about US-Iranian dialogue. Arab states are watching carefully American overtures towards their Persian neighbour. From their perspective, American-Iranian dialogue is a continuation of the risky European approach, which was based on offering Iran regional "incentives" in return for ending some of its nuclear activities. Arab states are more concerned about Iran's regional ambition than about its nuclear programme; the latter is important only in so far that it constitutes an element in Iran's bid for hegemony in the Middle East. From where they stand, offering Iran more regional power in return for its uranium enrichment defeats the purpose of the exercise. As far as nuclear programmes go, most Arab states are more worried about Israel's nuclear arsenal than they are about Iran's nascent capabilities. Even if they wanted to, Arab leaders would find it politically difficult to cooperate with the US against Iran's nuclear activities while Israel's nuclear weapons are shielded from scrutiny.